How a 75 Year Old Scientologist Taught Me to Stay Curious

We read every single day, but are we really getting the point of the story? The education system isn’t servicing us like its supposed to and why is that? Perhaps all we need is a 75 year old Scientologist to tell us the secret. I’ll tell you about my conclusion and how it changed how I viewed reading and understanding.

Sitting on the 9:30 pm bus from NYC to NJ doesn’t bear too many surprises on a daily basis. Commuters sit next to each other like aliens and predators leaving conversation as the last possible thing on their to-do lists.

Every morning, I see the same man crossing the street. We’ll call him Tony. Tony is a tall, gray haired, elderly individual who looks about 75 years old but has the energy of at least half of his age. He’s always on time and catches the same bus into the city every day. As we both approach the bus stop, we briefly acknowledge each other’s presence and after a few minutes of waiting, we board the bus and go our separate ways. Yesterday was the same process back to the suburbs of New Jersey, but I decided to say “hello” to Tony. A small greeting blossomed into a delightful conversation that took me through a small part of his journey to kick start a church in Harlem that drew over 3000 people on it’s opening day last weekend.

I was awed by Tony’s zest for life. Our first conversation mirrored enthusiasm I only meet from a few people in the fast-paced New York City. We started discussing our weekend plans when Tony disclosed his efforts to tutor individuals in Harlem. He spends his time teaching individuals from ages 10–65+ how to read and learn.

He pointed out that in society, we are taught to read quickly and infer the meanings of words from the surrounding context. However, this leads to a misunderstanding in the true crux of most stories. As he was speaking, I started to see my own experience mirroring his theory. I just embarked on my second attempt to read the Economist on a daily basis. In the past, I abandoned my effort because I would often get bogged down by some of the vocabulary. After a stint learning how to speed read, I thought I would enjoy any body of text by quickly skimming it. Wrong, dead wrong. After some time, I saw myself becoming deterred by the text and switching to something “easier” to read like news websites, blogs on the internet and twitter feeds.

And then Tony broke it down for me. He told me that the key to reading comprehension was actually comprehending every word in a body of text. If you’re reading and you miss a word, find out the correct definition. I know what you’re thinking — we’re back to elementary school, right? But you’d be surprised by how many people do not do this anymore.

So I challenged myself today. As I read my daily dose of the Economist, I decided to look up works that I didn’t fully comprehend at first glance. I learned words like snafus and junta. If you know what those mean, ten points for you. And now I’m hooked…almost every word that I read that I don’t quite understand, I am looking it up and the picture that’s being conveyed is much more clear.

So it took a 75 year old to remind me of a technique that I learned back in elementary school, yet I am grateful that he reinvigorated this passion for words. Being extra curious in what seems like a dull task can produce significant effects over time and that’s the goal.

Key takeaway: take the time to dissect words you do not know.

I’m a rather open minded individual so I enjoy hearing people’s ideas and wanted to inspire others. Oh and quick disclaimer: I am not a Scientologist. Happy reading!